Last Friday I had the pleasure of attending the opening day of the Light Aircraft Association (LAA) Rally at Sywell Aerodrome. I was delighted to attend the event, not least because sadly, due to the Covid pandemic, last year's event was cancelled but also as this is the LAA's 75th anniversary year.
Why was I there? I want to engage as much as possible with the General Aviation (GA) community and attending events such as the LAA Rally provides a fantastic opportunity to meet with those stakeholders and private pilots. We also had a number of CAA colleagues at the event, representing different areas of the work we do including pilot licensing, pilot training and airspace. Teams were on hand over the course of the three-day event to provide support and guidance to many private pilots who came to us for help.
I myself started flying when I was seventeen years old. I did a Flying Scholarship at Leicestershire Aero Club, extended this to a PPL and used this as much as I could afford to when back in Scotland. I then went on to join the Air Force at 18 but I see my foundation and interest in aviation being at grass roots level in GA and it is fantastic as Chair of the CAA that I am able to indulge in a passion from my youth. Seeing hundreds of different types of GA aircraft fly in and out of Sywell Aerodrome over the course of my day there was fantastic and a true reminder of why I and all my colleagues were there that weekend. We all share the same aspirations to have safe, effective and enjoyable aviation in this country.
I still very much enjoy flying whenever I can and being Chair of the CAA gives me a great opportunity to continue contributing to the aerospace endeavour, giving something back to the community that introduced me to flying in the first place. The first anniversary of my appointment as Chair has already passed and the challenges of dealing with the consequences of the pandemic for aviation have been considerable. Included in those consequences has been limitations on my ability to engage in person, across the sector. That's one of the many reasons why attending the LAA Rally has been so important to me, building on a GA day at Turweston which had been arranged for me a couple of weeks previously. It's essential for the CAA to keep engaging with those that we regulate, to understand properly the environment and issues, and to explain what we're trying to achieve. I very much hope to attend more events, to meet people and to expand further my knowledge.
The CAA has a responsibility to ensure that the regulations we have are reviewed regularly and thoroughly to make sure they continue to be fit for purpose. Regulation is based on many years of often hard-won aviation experience, but it does not in itself deliver safety: ultimately it is those who are conducting the activity that deliver safety. It needs to feel that way in practice, which is why the CAA is focused on proportional regulation and delegation where it is appropriate to do so, with the CAA conducting assurance as part of its ownership of the overall aviation safety system. I also very much believe that we are not on opposing sides - we are all part of the aviation enterprise and we all share a common interest in safe, effective and enjoyable flying in the UK. The CAA has its part to play in achieving that common interest - we all have our part to play.